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Diarrhoea

What is the definition of Diarrhoea?
Diarrhoea is defined as the passage of more than three loose bowel actions a day. Diarrhoea is classified based on the duration of symptoms:

> Acute Diarrhoea – less than four weeks duration
> Chronic Diarrhoea – longer than four weeks

What are the causes of Acute Diarrhoea?
Almost everyone has had an episode of diarrhoea at some stage in their life. Acute diarrhoea is often a symptom of infection and usually spontaneously resolves over 2-5 days. A consultation with your doctor is recommended if you feel unwell, are unable to tolerate food and fluids, have bleeding from the back passage or have a high fever.

What are the causes of Chronic Diarrhoea?
There are many causes of chronic diarrhoea. This may include:

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Coeliac Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) e.g. Ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease
Infections – e.g. Giardia, cryptosporidium
Food intolerances – eg. fructose, lactose, sorbitol etc
Medications – e.g. Reflux medications, some antidepressants

A consultation with your doctor is recommended if you have chronic diarrhoea, particularly if the following features are also present: loss of weight, bleeding from the back passage, family history of bowel cancer, fever.

What tests may be performed to evaluate Chronic Diarrhoea?
A range of tests may be important to find the underlying cause of chronic diarrhoea including: blood tests, stool tests, X rays, hydrogen breath tests, or Gastroscopy and/or Colonoscopy. Your primary health care provider can arrange many of these investigations, but may refer you to your GastroNorth specialist if the cause is not apparent or a gastroscopy/colonoscopy is required.

What is the treatment for Chronic Diarrhoea?
Whilst antidiarrhoeal medications (e.g. Gastrostop, Imodium, Lomotil) may improve the symptoms it remains important to treat the underlying cause as identified by investigations.

More Information?
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